Friday, November 17, 2017

Movie with Abe: The Breadwinner

The Breadwinner
Directed by Nora Twomey
Released November 17, 2017

English-language movies set in Afghanistan are usually war dramas - that’s just the nature of the recent conflict. A number of these are documentaries detailing the daily life filled with violence and the Western influence that has been felt in an underdeveloped country. Scripted films exist but are rarer, and usually feature an excerpt of a battle or tour as part of a larger narrative. This may well be the first animated film that takes place in Afghanistan, offering a unique perspective on the country’s society and culture with the aid of its imaginative format.

The film opens with a man named Nurullah being scolded by Taliban members for having his young daughter Parvana out with him on the streets of Kabul since women are not supposed to be out of the house and must be covered entirely at all times if they are. When Nurullah is arrested by the Taliban, Parvana tries to go out and earn for her family, a job that turns out to be impossible due to her gender. When she cuts off her hair and pretends to be a boy, however, she finds that she has considerably more success, leading her closer to being able to go find her father and try to get him freed from his unjust imprisonment.

This is hardly a story for children, but there is an enormous sense of wonder in its protagonist that helps to give it an uplifting feel among unimaginable circumstances for a child to have to endure. It’s no surprise that an extremely mature, bright-eyed child is the focus of the latest film from Irish animation company Cartoon Saloon, which previously produced “The Secret of Kells,” co-directed by Twomey, and “The Song of the Sea.” Stepping away from Ireland to a distant land made up much more of desert proves to be a very worthwhile move, one that tackles a complex and harrowing culture ruled by extremism and terrorism through a child’s eyes.

This film splits its time between Parvana’s life experiences and the recounting of mystical stories to her sister, which play out in vivid form. They are interspersed with the grittier moments of reality that ground Parvana’s hopes of finding her father and achieving a better life. Her determination and ability to see light in a dark world is matched by this film’s colorful interpretation of the black-and-white nature of its setting, a fitting follow-up to its studio’s previous productions.


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